Red Sox promote pitching prospect Tyler Uberstine to High-A Greenville

The Red Sox have promoted pitching prospect Tyler Uberstine from Low-A Salem to High-A Greenville, per the team’s minor-league transactions log.

Uberstine, 23, is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 38 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 16th among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally selected the right-hander in the 19th round of last year’s draft out of Northwestern University and signed him for $97,500.

After pitching in the MLB Draft League and rookie-level Florida Complex League last summer, Uberstine began his first full season in pro ball with Salem. In 14 starts (eight appearances) for the Red Sox, the California native posted a 4.63 ERA — but much more respectable 3.87 FIP — to go along with 66 strikeouts to 21 walks over 58 1/3 innings of work.

Among Carolina League pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings to this point in the season, Ubserstine ranks 18th in strikeouts per nine innings (10.18), 14th in walks per nine innings (3.24), 15th in walk rate (8.4%), 18th in swinging strike rate (14%), 12th in groundball rate (49.1%), 16th in FIP, and eighth in xFIP (3.53), per FanGraphs.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Uberstine throws from a three-quarters arm slot and works with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 91-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95 mph, a changeup, and a slider, according to his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Uberstine becomes the latest member of Boston’s 2021 draft class to get called up to Greenville, joining the likes of Wyatt Olds, Jacob Webb, Nathan Hickey, Niko Kavadas, Tyler McDonough, and Phillip Sikes.

In order to make room on the roster for Uberstine, the Drive transferred fellow righty Chih-Jung Liu to the development list.

(Picture of Tyler Uberstine: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox top prospect Marcelo Mayer earns Carolina League Player of the Week honors

Top Red Sox prospect Marcelo Mayer has been named the Carolina League Player of the Week for the week of June 27 – July 3, Minor League Baseball announced on Tuesday.

In Low-A Salem’s last series on the road against the Lynchburg Hillcats, Mayer went 10-for-23 (.435) across five games with five doubles, two home runs, five RBIs, seven runs scored, one stolen base, three walks, and six strikeouts. On the 2022 season as a whole, the left-handed hitting shortstop is slashing a robust .291/.376/.522 with 21 doubles, seven homers, 29 runs driven in, 32 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, 25 walks, and 58 strikeouts over 44 games spanning 210 trips to the plate.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters, Mayer ranks eighth in batting average, 10th in on-base percentage, third in slugging percentage, third in OPS (.898), fifth in isolated power (.231), and third in wRC+ (145), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Mayer has unsurprisingly seen all his playing time on the field this season come at shortstop. The 6-foot-3, 190 pounder has logged 336 1/3 innings at the position and has committed a total of six errors.

Mayer, 19, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 1 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The Red Sox originally selected the California-born infielder with the fourth overall pick in last year’s draft out of Eastlake High School in Chula Vista.

As encouraging as Mayer’s first full season in pro ball has been thus far, it has not come without its bumps. A sprained right wrist required a stint on Salem’s 7-day injured list and resulted in Mayer being limited to just five games in the month of May.

Since returning from the IL on May 30, though, Mayer has posted a .903 OPS over his last 27 games. He also becomes the third consecutive Red Sox prospect to earn Carolina League Player of the Week honors, joining the likes of Niko Kavadas (now in Greenville) and Blaze Jordan.

(Picture of Marcelo Mayer: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox catching prospect Nathan Hickey has homered 3 times in last 3 games for Low-A Salem

Another member of the Salem Red Sox who has been tearing it up at the plate as of late is catcher Nathan Hickey.

In Salem’s 8-7 loss to the Fredericksburg Nationals at Carilion Clinic Field on Tuesday night, Hickey — batting cleanup — went 1-for-4 with two RBIs, two runs scored, two strikeouts, and one walk.

His lone hit was a clutch game-tying, two-run home run in the ninth inning. Although Salem ultimately fell to Fredericksburg in extras, Hickey extended his hitting streak to six consecutive games and is continuing on with a productive month of June.

Since the calendar flipped from May, Hickey is batting a stout .295/.418/.614 with five doubles, three home runs, 18 RBIs, 10 runs scored, 10 walks, and 11 strikeouts over his last 12 games and 55 trips to the plate.

On the 2022 campaign — which is also his first full professional season — as a whole, the left-handed hitter has slashed .278/.437/.526 to go along with 12 doubles, seven homers, 39 runs driven in, 30 runs scored, 38 walks, and 37 punchouts across 39 games (174 plate appearances) with Salem.

Among qualified Carolina League Hitters, Hickey ranks 16th in batting average, third in on-base percentage, fifth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS (.963), fifth in isolated power (.248), and second in walk rate (21.8%), per MiLB.com’s leaderboards.

Defensively, Hickey has unsurprisingly seen all his playing time this season come behind the plate when not serving as Salem’s designated hitter. The 6-foot, 210 pound backstop has now logged 209 2/3 innings behind the plate in 2022 and has allowed six passed balls while throwing out three of a possible 34 base stealers.

Hickey, 22, was selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of last year’s amateur draft out of the University of Florida. Unlike his college teammate Jud Fabian, the former Gator signed with the club for $1 million last August.

A native of Jacksonville, Fla. himself, Hickey is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 23 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks tops among catchers in the organization.

Per his Baseball America scouting report, which was written by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier, Hickey is “far from a sure bet to stay behind the plate, where he lacks agility and technical polish when both receiving and blocking. While he has solid arm strength, he ended his 2021 college season at third base.”

Speier also noted that Hickey, who does not turn 23 until November, “may move more deliberately than other college players with his offensive profile given the need to develop behind the plate, but he’ll be given every chance to develop into a bat-first everyday catcher. If he can’t stay at the position, he could fit in a corner.”

Taking that into consideration, it remains to be seen if Hickey will work his way to High-A Greenville at some point this summer or will instead stick with Salem for the rest of the season. Only time will tell.

(Picture of Nathan Hickey: Gary Streiffer/Flickr)

Red Sox pitching prospect Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz tosses 4 scoreless innings in professional debut

Red Sox pitching prospect Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz made his professional debut in the Florida Complex League on Tuesday afternoon.

Matched up against the FCL Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, the right-hander allowed just two hits and no walks to go along with two strikeouts over four scoreless innings to lead the FCL Red Sox to an 11-0 win.

While pitch counts from these games are not available to the public, Rodriguez-Cruz took a no-hitter into the third inning and wound up retiring 12 of the 14 batters he faced.

The Red Sox originally selected Rodriguez-Cruz in the fourth round of the 2021 amateur draft out of Leadership Christian Academy in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. They swayed the 18-year-old away from his commitment to the University of Oregon by signing him for $497,500.

After not pitching competitively last season, Rodriguez-Cruz took part in the Sox’ fall performance program and came into the year ranked by FanGraphs as the No. 43 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Back in March, FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Tess Taruskin described Rodriguez-Cruz as “a very projectable righty” who “showed a loose, whippy, inconsistent delivery on the showcase circuit and was sitting mostly 91-92 mph while topping out at 94. His curveball has good-looking shape but lacks power, and he has pretty crude feel for creating action on his changeup, but ERC is a premium arm talent developmental prospect.”

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the 6-foot-3, 160 pound righty works at 90-93 mph and tops out at 95 mph with his fastball, 75-78 mph with his curveball, and 80-83 mph with his changeup.

Given that he does not turn 19 until August, it seems likely that the Red Sox will exhibit patience when it comes to Rodriguez’s development. The upside is certainly there, but on the flip side of that, there is no need to rush things.

(Picture of Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox relief prospect Jacob Webb has struck out 24 of the first 56 batters he has faced with Low-A Salem this season

Red Sox relief prospect Jacob Webb picked up his second save of the season in Low-A Salem’s 1-0 win over the Delmarva Shorebirds on Tuesday afternoon.

Getting the call for the ninth inning, Webb needed just nine pitches — seven of which were strikes — to retire the side in order while also recording two punchouts.

Through 10 relief appearances for Salem this year, the right-hander has posted a 2.84 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and .191/.321/.234 slash line against to go along with 24 strikeouts to eight walks over 12 2/3 innings of work. In other words, he has struck out nearly 43% of the batters he has faced thus far, but is doing so while issuing walks at a 14.3% clip.

Webb, 23, was taken by the Red Sox in the 14th round of last year’s amateur draft out of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The Dayton-area native signed with Boston for $122,500 and made his professional debut in the Florida Complex League that August.

After just two outings in the FCL, Webb earned a promotion to Salem and has since produced a 1.99 ERA in 16 cumulative appearances (22 2/3 innings pitched) for the Sox’ Low-A affiliate.

Listed at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Webb is currently regarded by SoxProspects.com as the No. 56 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks 24th among pitchers in the organization. Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, the righty throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 92-94 mph fastball, an 81-85 mph slider, and a rarely-used changeup.

If Webb, who does not turn 24 until next March, can continue to string together impressive outings out of the bullpen for Salem, then another promotion to High-A Greenville at some point this summer would certainly seem to be within his grasp.

(Picture of Jacob Webb: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox first base prospect Niko Kavadas boasting top walk rate (27.5%) and fourth-best on-base percentage (.475) in Carolina League

You could say that Red Sox first base prospect Niko Kavadas is in the midst of a slump. Over his last six games with Low-A Salem dating back to April 27, Kavadas is batting just .133 (2-for-15) with one extra-base hit.

While a .133 batting average is certainly not an eye-opener, Kavadas has still managed to get on base as of late despite the lack of hits. In his last 24 trips to the plate, the left-handed hitter has drawn nine walks, which translates to a 37.5% walk rate as well as a .458 on-base percentage.

Through the first month of the 2022 minor-league season, which is also his first full professional season, Kavadas is slashing .263/.475/.474 with six doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, 10 runs scored, one stolen base, 22 walks, and 25 strikeouts over 18 games spanning 80 plate appearances with Salem.

Among qualified Carolina League hitters, the 23-year-old currently ranks second in walks, first in walk rate (27.5%), 29th in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, 17th in slugging percentage, ninth in OPS (.949), 10th in isolated power (.211), and seventh in wRC+ (174), per FanGraphs.

Defensively, Kavadas has unsurprisingly seen all of his playing time on the field this year come at first base. The 6-foot-1, 235 pounder has logged 111 innings at the position thus far and has registered four assists while turning seven double plays.

The Red Sox originally selected Kavadas in the 11th round of last summer’s amateur draft out of the University of Notre Dame. The Indiana native officially signed with the club for $250,000 on the first day of August. Around that same time, Kavadas was identified by Baseball America as an underrated draft selection on account of his power and ability to draw walks.

While he has only hit four home runs in 33 professional games, Kavadas has already shown that he can be productive in other ways via ball four. Since being promoted from the Florida Complex League to Salem on August 25 of last year, Kavadas has drawn 30 walks while only striking out 32 times.

Kavadas, who does not turn 24 until late October, is currently regarded by FanGraphs as the No. 28 prospect and by SoxProspects.com as the No. 48 prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Under the assumption that he can break out of his quote-unquote slump and continue to get on base at a high rate, it seems likely that Kavadas could make his way to High-A Greenville before season’s end.

(Picture of Niko Kavadas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox prospect Tyler McDonough hits first home run of season for High-A Greenville

Versatile Red Sox prospect Tyler McDonough hit his first home run of the season in High-A Greenville’s 9-6 victory over the Asheville Tourists (Astros affiliate) on Thursday night.

Batting leadoff and starting in center field, McDonough went 2-for-5 with a double, a home run, four RBIs, one run scored, and one strikeout at McCormick Field.

After beginning the 2022 season 0 for his first 13 with seven punchouts, McDonough has gone 4 for his last 11 with four extra-base hits, four runs scored, and seven runs driven in across the Drive’s last two games, both of which were wins.

McDonough, who turned 23 earlier this month, is ranked by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system. The North Carolina State product is in the midst of his first full season as a pro after being selected by the Sox in the third round of last summer’s draft.

During his three seasons with the Wolfpack, McDonough saw playing time at second base, third base, and center field. That sort of usage has continued with the Red Sox organization, as the 5-foot-10, 180 pounder has already logged nine innings at second base, nine innings in center field, and 28 innings at new position in left field early on this year.

Offensively, McDonough was known for his bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline during his time at North Carolina State. So far as a pro, the switch-hitter has proven capable of handling left-handed and right-handed pitchers alike. Between the Florida Complex League and Low-A Salem last year, the Ohio native batted .277/.371/.446 against righties and .400/.478/.750 against southpaws.

Given his ability to play multiple positions and hit from both sides of the plate, McDonough could prove to be a valuable asset within Boston’s farm system who has the potential to rise through the organizational ranks quickly.

(GIF of Tyler McDonough via the Greenville Drive)

Prep shortstops Brady House, Jordan Lawlar linked to Red Sox in MLB Pipeline’s latest 2021 mock draft

In his latest mock draft for MLB Pipeline, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo has the Red Sox selecting Eastlake High School (Calif.) shortstop Marcelo Mayer with the fourth overall pick in this summer’s draft come July 11.

That much is not surprising given the fact that Mayer has previously been linked to the Red Sox.

What is surprising, though, is that Mayo links the Red Sox to two other prep shortstops in Jordan Lawlar, who he has going to the Rangers at No. 2 (in between Vanderbilt’s Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker), and Brady House, who he has going to the Orioles at No. 5.

On Lawlar, Mayo writes “the Red Sox would love one of those top three to be here, particularly Leiter or Lawlar, which could easily happen if Mayer goes above.”

Lawlar, who turns 19 in July, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the third-ranked prospect in this year’s draft class, which is tops among high schoolers and all position players.

The 6-foot-2, 185 pound shortstop throws with his right hand, hits from the right side of the plate, and is committed to play college baseball at Vanderbilt University.

Through 28 games played for Dallas Jesuit High School this spring, Lawlar — a Texas native — is slashing a gaudy .425/.552/.713 with four home runs and 31 RBI over 105 plate appearances.

As a Dallas-area native, Lawlar has drawn comparisons to Royals top prospect Bobby Witt Jr., who the club selected with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft.

Per his MLB Pipeline scouting report, Lawlar is “a legitimate candidate” to go the Pirates at No. 1 if it’s not Leiter or Rocker.

“Lawlar is a more polished hitter than Witt was at the same stage with a quick, compact right-handed swing and a mature, patient approach, though he has struck out more than expected as a senior,” his scouting report reads. “He focuses on working the gaps and has a knack for inside-outing balls to right field. With his bat speed and the projectable strength in his 6-foot-2 frame, he should develop solid power once he adds strength and starts turning on more pitches.

“Lawlar’s plus speed plays well on the bases and in the field, and he’ll even clock some well-above-average run times on occasion. The Vanderbilt recruit is a no-doubt shortstop with plenty of range, quick hands and a strong arm, though like most youngsters he needs to improve his defensive consistency. There isn’t much to quibble with his game, though teams with age-based models won’t like that he’ll turn 19 a week after the Draft.”

Turning to House now, Mayo writes that the shortstop he projects to go to Baltimore at No. 5 “had entered last summer as the front-runner top pick, had an up-and-down showing, but righted the ship this spring, with his name starting to pop up at least as high as right above this pick.”

House, who turns 18 in June, is at the moment regarded by Baseball America as the No. 12 draft-eligible prospect in this year’s class, which ranks fourth among high schoolers behind Lawlar, Mayer, and IMG Academy (Fla.) outfielder James Wood.

Like Lawlar, House — listed at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds — throws with his right hand and bats from the right side of the plate. The Georgia native is committed to play college baseball for the Tennessee Volunteers.

Currently wrapping up his senior year at Winder-Barrow High School in Winder, Ga., the young shortstop is slashing .573/.685/1.012 to go along with eight home runs and 19 RBI over 27 games played for the Bulldoggs, per MaxPreps.

According to his Baseball America scouting report, House “has an exciting combination of a high-level track record and a gaudy toolset to go along with it. The offensive tools are the loudest with House. He has terrific bat speed and natural strength, to go along with an advanced approach that allows him to track velocity and offspeed stuff with consistency. Scouts with history on House believe he has the ability to develop into a plus hitter, and his raw power should develop into 70-grade juice as he continues to develop. He’s already a physical and imposing hitter now, with plenty of impact to all fields and plus raw power, but there’s more to be had in the future.

“Defensively, House has easy plus arm strength — he can reach 96 mph on the mound — that could be an asset on the infield, where he has a good chance to stick. He doesn’t look like a typical pro shortstop, but evaluators have been impressed with his hands, reactions, internal clock and body control. Some believe he would be a better fit at third base, where he has all the tools to turn into an above-average defender.”

Because they own the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, the Red Sox will have approximately $6.664 million in recommended slot value to spend on said pick.

Last year, in Chaim Bloom’s first draft as Red Sox chief baseball officer, Boston took Nick Yorke — another prep infielder out of California — with their top pick at No. 17 overall.

Between Yorke, Triston Casas, Jeter Downs, Brainer Bonaci, Hudson Potts, Blaze Jordan, etc., you could say that the Sox’ farm system is chockfull of infielders. So why would they draft another infielder so early to add to that crowded mix?

To put it simply, the Red Sox will not be drafting for need by the time they are on the clock in less than three months. They will instead be going after the best player available regardless of position. Whether that be a pitcher, catcher, infielder, or outfielder has yet to be determined.

Again, the draft is still three months away, so who the Sox will be taking at No. 4 really hasn’t come into focus yet.

As Mayo put it, the names linked to the Red Sox thus far are names “that make some sense and are feasible” for the club to draft. That’s it.

(Picture of Chaim Bloom and Alex Cora: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Could Red Sox take enticing catching prospect Henry Davis with No. 4 pick in 2021 MLB Draft?

The 2021 MLB first-year player draft is set to begin in just under three months. In case you haven’t heard, the Red Sox will be making their top selection in the draft with the fourth overall pick after finishing with the fourth-worst record in baseball last season.

In his latest 2021 draft prospect rankings, The Athletic’s Keith Law listed University of Louisville catcher Henry Davis as his No. 4 draft-eligible prospect.

“Davis has mashed all year, with huge power and a patient eye, and he’s got a plus arm and enough receiving skills to stay behind the plate,” Law wrote earlier Thursday. “Joey Bart went second overall with less bat and more glove; I don’t think it’s a stretch to think Davis could be the first college position player taken.”

Davis, 21, is listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds. Through the Cardinals’ first 30 games of the season, the third-year sophomore is slashing an impressive .389/.514/.676 with eight home runs, 32 RBI, and an ACC-leading nine stolen bases. He has also thrown out 11 of the 20 baserunners who have attempted to steal against him.

In the history of the first-year player draft — which dates back to 1965 — the Red Sox have taken a catcher in the first round on just four separate occasions, most recently selecting Blake Swihart out of Cleveland High School (Rio Rancho, NM) with the 26th overall pick (compensation pick from the Rangers for Adrian Beltre) in 2011.

The last catcher who played his college baseball at Louisville to be selected in the first round of an amateur draft was the Dodgers’ Will Smith, whom Los Angeles took with the 32nd overall pick in 2016.

Since then, Smith has risen through the prospect ranks and has emerged as one of the top young catchers in the National League, if not all of baseball.

Coming into play on Thursday, the 26-year-old is slashing .261/.438/.652 with two home runs and four RBI through his first eight games of the 2021 campaign.

This is not to say that Davis should be compared to Smith at the moment. Both backstops may be right-handed hitters who attended the same school, but one is already establishing himself as an everyday big-leaguer while the other has yet to go pro.

That said, it is worth mentioning that the last University of Louisville catcher to be selected in the first round of the draft turned out to be someone with plenty of potential in the form of Smith.

As for how Davis — a native of Bedford, N.Y. who played for the Cape League’s Bourne Braves in 2019 — is viewed in the eyes of scouts, his MLB Pipeline scouting report goes as follows:

“Davis’ standout tool is his plus-plus arm strength, and he erased 34 percent of basestealers in his first two college seasons while also displaying quick footwork and good throwing accuracy. His receiving still needs a lot of work because it lacks consistency and he sometimes struggles to handle quality stuff, as evidenced by six passed balls in just 13 starts last spring. Though he has below-average speed and conceivably could try an outfield corner, his value comes from staying behind the plate, so he’ll have to improve. 

“While he doesn’t have a pretty right-handed swing, Davis makes it work at the plate and has a higher offensive ceiling than most catchers. He manages the strike zone well and makes repeated hard contact, even if his stroke lengthens and he gets a bit pull-happy at times. His strength and controlled aggression could produce 20 homers per season.”

Whoever the Red Sox take — whether it be Davis, Marcelo Mayer, Jack Leiter, or someone else — with their top selection in this summer’s draft, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, amateur scouting director Paul Toboni and Co. will have approximately $6.64 million in recommended slot value to spend on the No. 4 pick.

On a somewhat related note, The Baseball Prospect Journal’s Dan Zielinski III wrote back in January that during the offseason, Davis caught bullpens for Red Sox relievers Matt Barnes and Adam Ottavino.

(Picture of Henry Davis: Louisville Athletics)

New Podding the Red Sox episode: Area scout Danny Watkins joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by Red Sox area scout Danny Watkins, who covers Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee for the team.

Among the topics Danny and I discussed are what it’s like to be an amateur scout for a Major League Baseball team, how the scouting landscape has changed in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, what it was like scouting Mookie Betts out of high school, how preparations are being made for the 2021 draft, how it is scouting Vanderbilt University’s Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, and much more!

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Danny for taking some time out of his busy scouting schedule to have a conversation with me.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of JetBlue Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)